October 16, 2000
Area woman completes journey to raise awareness of AIDS
by Deborah Stone
In 1995, Tracy Daugherty's brother, Bret Granato, died of AIDS.
Daugherty was very close to her brother, as they were only eleven months apart in age. She came up to the Seattle area from California to be with him during his last years and saw the excellent care he was given by the local agencies in the area.
"Bret had a loving and supportive family," says Daugherty, "but so many millions of people with AIDS die, thinking that no one cares about them.
"I was very impressed with the quality of care Bret received all along the way and I felt a strong need to give back to the community in some way after he died.
"I decided that I wanted to raise money for AIDS research and to spread awareness of the urgency to wipe out this disease before so many more millions of people die from it."
Daugherty made good on the promise she made to herself and decided to achieve her goal via cycling with Ride for a Reason.
Her first ride in '97 took her from Vancouver to Seattle and she raised $2,000 via pledges and contributions.
In '98 she rode from Olympia to Portland and doubled her pledge money. Ride for a Reason ceased to exist in '99, but that didn't stop Daugherty.
She says, "Some friends of mine who had gone with me on the Ride for a Reason trips decided to join me in riding in local rides to raise money for the local chapters of the Chicken Soup Brigade and the Northwest AIDS Foundation.I collected $2,000 last year just through local rides."
This year, Daugherty participated, along with more than 1,500 men and women from the U.S., in the Pallotta TeamWorks' Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride. With compassion, strength and conviction, she committed to going to "the ends of the earth" and pedaled 510 miles through the final frontier.
The six-day cycling journey went from Fairbanks to Anchorage in late August and according to Daugherty, it was "grueling."
The cyclists encountered intense terrain and route conditions as they rode through Alaska's mountain passes, up and down steep roads, along valleys and rivers, through snow storms, torrential rain and chilling winds. Elevation levels topped the charts at 3,300 feet.
"Winter came earlier than expected," commented Daugherty, "and we encountered every kind of weather you could think of. I used every bit of clothing I brought with me."
The cyclists were supported by 450 crewmembers, one of whom was Daugherty's mother, a resident of Fairbanks. Daugherty's sister, Tammie VanDiest of Gig Harbor, rode with her every mile of the way.
Each night, they slept in a mobile tent city and were supplied with tents, showers, hot meals, bike tech, medical services and entertainment.
During the day, each rider traveled at his or her own pace, averaging 80 miles a day. In order to participate in the Pallotta TeamWorks' Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride, each participant trained for the event and committed to raise at least $3,900.
Daugherty raised $5,500. In total, the cyclists raised $4.1 million to benefit the work of three of the world's most respected AIDS research scientists and their teams - Dr. Irvin Chen of the UCLA AIDS Institute, Dr. David Ho of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and Dr. Rafi Ahmed of The Emory Vaccine Center - as they work to eradicate AIDS through vaccine.
"Everybody I talk to about this disease has been affected by it," says Daugherty. "Everyone knows someone who either has AIDS, or has been affected by a loss due to AIDS. It needs to end and I now know at least 2,000 other people, willing to take dramatic steps toward that end."
Daugherty plans to ride again next summer in Pallotta TeamWorks' Montana AIDS Vaccine Ride, a 575-mile ride from Missoula to Billings.
She starts her training in February by riding her bike on weekends. Then in late March, she ups her schedule to three to four times a week and takes long rides on the weekends.
By late June, she is doing back-to-back weekend rides of 75 miles each day, in addition to her weekday rides. The Seattle to Portland Ride (STP) is a training run for her, which she completes in one day.
"I enjoy cycling and I do it at my pace," explains Daugherty. "It's great exercise for me, but the reason I do these rides is to make people aware that AIDS is still a problem.
"Just because it doesn't make front-page news now, doesn't mean the disease is cured. People think the problem is all fixed and the truth is that AIDS is still a big time killer. The drugs they came out with only work for certain people, plus they are very expensive, so only a few people can afford them. They can help only small numbers of people. What about all the millions of others?
"Through research, a cure can be found and hopefully it will save current and future generations from this disease."
For more information on Pallotta TeamWorks' AIDS Vaccine Rides, to participate, crew or volunteer in any of the three 2001 events, call (888) 553-4567 or visit the organization's website at www.vaccineride.org.